President George Maxwell Richards will this morning swear in the new executive of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) at the Assembly Hall, James Park, Scarborough, Tobago.
The Assembly's "9th Inauguration Ceremony", which involves the selection of a presiding officer, a deputy presiding officer, the election of a Chief Secretary and the appointment of three councillors, is set to begin at 10 a.m.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister issued yesterday stated that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has accepted the invitation of the Tobago House of Assembly to witness the inauguration ceremony of the THA members for the period 2013-2017.
Persad-Bissessar will be accompanied by Dr Delmon Baker, Minister of Tobago Development, the statement added.
The incumbent Orville London, having secured his fourth term as THA Chief Secretary, will lead the Assembly for another four years.
But for the first time, no Minority Leader and no Opposition councillors would be sworn in.
In a crushing defeat of 12-0, the assemblyman who last held the position of Minority Leader, Ashworth Jack, leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), lost his Mason Hall/Providence/Moriah seat to People's National Movement (PNM) newcomer Sheldon Cunningham last Monday.
Already dealing with the issue of no Minority Leader, London said this will not stop the inauguration of the new executive today.
The political leader of the PNM's Tobago Council has also indicated he has gotten legal advice on the matter and is in discussion with Richards about this unprecedented situation in which there is no official Opposition.
London explained that yesterday, "the position of Minority Leader will be declared vacant".
He said no minority councillor will be appointed, and for the first time, the Assembly will have to function with 15 members instead of the customary 16 members.
He said he would support a motion in Parliament indicating "in the case there is no Minority Leader, the President would be authorised to appoint two councillors of the Assembly", adding he was prepared to take this suggestion to the Prime Minister.
Richards is also expected to swear in the secretaries and deputy secretaries who will form London's Cabinet at a separate ceremony tomorrow at the President's House, Tobago, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
As to concerns about the potential threat to the democratic process because of an absence of an Opposition in the THA, political analyst Derek Ramsamooj told the Express that a PNM win for the THA should cause no fear whatsoever with respect to the decision-making processes of a clearly defined executive majority in the Assembly.
He said there have been numerous examples throughout the history of the Commonwealth where political executives have won without legislated opposition, and pointed to the vote campaign in T&T in 1972 resulting in no elected opposition and again in 1986 when the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) had a clear majority, 33-3, and therefore could have changed the Constitution anyway they chose.
Since the results were announced on Monday, TOP's Jack has kept a low profile in Tobago.
On his Facebook page, he stated: "I would like to thank all of the supporters and every Tobagonian who voted yesterday (Monday). Though the results were not what we wanted, the democratic process is one in which the people make the decisions.
"The voter turnout overall was high, and we can state that Tobagonians have decided Tobago's fate, and that can only set the stage for an even greater Tobago future. Thank you again for everyone who supported TOP and to all Tobagonians."
—with reporting by Elizabeth Williams